Asante (Ashante, Ashanti) Weights

ashanti weightAshanti weights, or abrammo, were found in West Africa's Gold Coast, now known as Ghana. The weights were used to measure out quantities of gold and gold dust, which were mined and panned within the kingdom and used for trading and ornamentation.  The weights were made of brass, cast using the lost-wax method. The goldsmith made a beeswax model of the weight and covered it with thin layers of clay, brushed on with a feather. The clay was baked, causing the wax to melt and run out. The clay was then used as a mould for the bronze, later destroyed to reach the bronze weight inside.

The average collection of weights contained about forty, with no specific 'sets' of patterns or motifs. A chief would have more weights, including heavier types with superior workmanship. The pattern and shape of each weight carried a different meaning, related to the myths, proverbs and customs of the Ashanti.  Weight production began in approximately 1400, however during the 18th and 19th centuries, manufacture increased as the Ashanti's economy grew. In 1894, the colonial administration banned the use of gold dust as currency, and in 1896 outlawed the use and making of weights.

The Hunterian Museum has almost 400 weights in its collection, ranging from the earliest geometric types to the more elaborate designs which included humans, animals, birds and other objects important to the Ashanti culture.